A federal judge has opened a window for the family of one of James “Whitey” Bulger’s alleged victims to continue with a federal lawsuit against FBI agents who monitored the notorious gangster when he was a prized informant.
US District Judge William G. Young said Thursday in a 32-page ruling that a lawsuit against the agents can continue in spite of an appeals court ruling last year that dismissed a claim that the family had brought against the federal government.
In that ruling, the First US Court of Appeals found that the family of homicide victim Michael Donahue and the family of another one of Bulger’s alleged victims did not file a claim against the government before a federal statute of limitations had expired.
The ruling effectively vacated multimillion-dollar judgments the families had won that found that that the government was responsible for the agents allowing Bulger to commit murder. The family of Brian Halloran unsuccesfuly petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear the case. Donahue’s family meanwhile asked for Young to consider the case against the agents.
Young granted the request, and said in his ruling Thursday that the Appeals Court decision was restricted to whether the case was filed within the statute of limitations, and was not based on the merits of the case.
Without judging the merits, the judge said that the case against the agents was filed within the time frame required for a civil suit against individual agents, and so it can continue.
Members of the Donahue family said they had been waiting 11 years to see justice in the case, which was first filed in 2001.
“This gives the family one more opportunity to finally get justice,” said Ed Hinchey, the family’s lawyer.
He said the family wanted to target the agents because, “They are alleged to have created an environment that promised this unlawful conduct.”
Donahue was an innocent 32-year-old truck driver who was allegedly shot by Bulger while he was giving Halloran a ride home in May 1982. Bulger had been seeking out Halloran because he had been tipped off by his corrupt handlers that he had been providing information to authorities.
The two deaths are among 19 that Bulger allegedly participated in during his reign of terror in Boston.
Bulger, now 83, is slated to go to trial in March on a federal racketeering indictment. He was arrested in June 2011 after 16 years on the lam.